Monday, September 13, 2010

Tree-planting for real the 2nd time round

Back in early 2009, when Brian was in 5th grade, he and a couple of his classmates worked on a project to mark the end of Elementary School. This was a project that lasted a few months, culminating in an Exhibition day where groups will present what they've done to parents, teachers and schoolmates who visit their booths. Unlike past years, the kids were limited in the scope they could cover, I believe most of the projects were on the themes of either environment or bullying and something else. They also weren't allowed to do any fund-raising like in previous years.

Now, for Brian's group, they chose the Environment theme and in the process Brian learnt quite a bit on all the technical terms about the harmful stuff that's going on in the environment (which funnily enough helped him in either his GEP social studies or PSLE Science, I forget). They also planned for a tree-planting day to coincide with Earth Day.

However, they were advised that saplings were too costly, so they ended up planting shrubs :), better than nothing lah. Pictures here were taken in May 2009. Brian has changed so much in a year plus.

The shrubs were planted right near the entrance of the school.

I was never sure if the shrubs survived the 2009/2010 winter. When we left Moscow, it was still bitterly cold and the shrubs were just twigs.

Well, two Saturdays ago, Brian had the opportunity to do tree-planting for real this time. 30 kids from both Middle and High School went to a place near Cha-Am, about 3 hours from Bangkok, to plant 300 mangrove trees. This was to offset the school's carbon footprint from flights. These are pictures from the school club's public site.

Brian said it was no easy task planting these saplings. They all wore boots but would get stuck in the swampy mud and find it hard getting out. There were also leeches and I think worms in the no likey...

Seems like a back-breaking job to me. To make the job even harder, it rained heavily while they were working. Brian was drenched and the worst part was, he didn't bring a change of clothes.

Part of the 300 mangrove trees planted by the kids.

Even though they arrived in Bangkok really late after the bus broke down 7 times (!!), and he was wearing drenched clothes for most of the day, Brian was really happy to achieve what he had set out to do in 5th grade. Better late than never!

Green, not Pink, Panther

Brian has become quite the greenie in our house. In school, his elective is Environmental Stewardship and for after-school activity he's also joined the school's environmental group, the Green Panthers.

He's tried to get us to drink from the tap instead of the supplied bottled water (I'm vetoing the idea till I get more convincing evidence), apparently bottled water is really bad for you. He's also changed his tooth-brushing and showering habits by not letting the water run the entire time, apparently if all 4 of us do this, we can save almost 400 litres of water a day. But I'll be coldddddd... :)

At night, he refuses to turn the air-conditioning on in his room. A couple of times last week, he woke up in the middle of the night as he couldn't sleep. I now realise it's probably cos of the warm muggy air in the room. Last night, I made him turn on the airconditioning, and he slept comfortably all night.

Anyway, about a month ago, Brian told me about this water bottle that folds up when you've finished drinking the water. I was intrigued when I saw it for sale at the bookshop. I picked two up for the boys, more cos of the space-saving idea, than for environmental or health reasons. The boys have been happily using these for the past month.

The bottle is almost flat when empty, takes up very little space, and is extremely light. When it's filled up with water, it stands upright like a proper water bottle. When you've finished drinking the water, it can be rolled up, definitely a space-saver.

I guess I shouldn't even call it a bottle, since the product is touted as the anti-bottle. It's BPA-free! I used to think this talk about BPA was just scare-mongering but with Brian reminding me every other day how bad plastic bottles were, this gives me a little peace of mind.

1% of proceeds goes towards saving the planet. The bottles don't come cheap, I can't quite remember how much exactly they are, but it's about S$13 I think.

As if we're not convinced enough about how green this product is.

Where to get your anti-bottle.


Wow, there's a blog post by this lady on the anti-bottle, and the number of comments on that post is more than 400! There's definitely interest in this product, I should be distributing and marketing it! Has anyone seen it in Singapore or Malaysia? :)

Switcheroo with Mr J

Every week, there's Switcheroo in school for Sean, where teachers swap classes and read to the kids. So one day, Mr J from another class was reading a book to the class and later he told them they could ask him anything about himself.

The reason we're talking about this is cos I had asked Sean if he liked Mr J, whom I had hoped would be Sean's class teacher this year. I have this thing about boys faring better with male teachers, you see :P Anyway, Sean loves his current teacher, Ms C, so everything's cool.

Back to Mr J. Sean told me Mr J had hair coming out from near his chin. I gasped, at first I thought Sean was talking about a mole with hair sprouting from it. I asked, "You mean you asked Mr J about that???!!" He smiled, "Yes."

What did you ask???!!!

Sean said, "Why do have a little beard here?"

Of all the things to ask!

Thankfully, Mr J was a good sport, he said, "Once upon a time, I had a goatee and I shaved it off and I was left with a beard. Then I wanted to shave it off, so I did, but the power went off so I was left with that clump of hair."

I laughed so much at Mr J's explanation while Sean was puzzled about why I was laughing. He really believed what Mr J said. I was kind of relieved the clump of hair was indeed a mini-goatee, not a hairy mole as I had thought earlier :P Somehow, I think Mr J would have come up with an equally hilarious reason even if it were a hairy mole.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Sean's 8! (Part 3): Birthday cake

Now although I had already bought those gorgeous rainbow cupcakes (previous post) and even an extra box of blue-heart cupcakes (below), Sean still wanted me to bake him a cake. I've only ever baked one type of cake and yes, in the past, I'd bake cakes for the boys to take to school. But that was cos we were in angmoh countries, where cakes not only tasted bad but were expensive. We are in Bangkok now, gorgeous, delicious, cheap cakes were a-plenty.

But how do you say no to your kid when that's what he wants for his birthday. So out I went shopping for ingredients, grumbling about the exorbitant costs of these imported stuff (whipped cream, butter, vanilla extract, chocolates etc). Many of the stuff I used for baking couldn't be brought in from Moscow as it just wasn't allowed. I had to throw lots of stuff away when I left Moscow. I didn't expect to have to bake again :P

So anyway, I'm posting this picture to remind Sean of the time he made me bake his cake. He's licking the icing. The thing is, Sean never eats much of the cake I baked in the past. Many people have said they like the cake, including Brian's classmates and the boys' teachers and my friends, but whenever I bake my cake, the boys and Eddie would take only one slice each, and I end up eating the rest. I reminded Sean that he doesn't really like my cake, he insisted he did.

It was really a LABOUR of love...laborious is the word, cos I'm not exactly loving the work, baking stresses me out. So much work to do in my tiny kitchen, flour and icing flying all over. This morning, I woke up and iced the wording. The ganache looks uneven but I kinda like the look of the cake this way. But I knew Sean wouldn't want it simple like this.

So the final look was this.

Eddie wanted to go out for dinner but Sean's always happiest when we eat at home. So we cooked his favourite dishes, had dinner and sang him a birthday song. The candles were in the words I LOVE YOU, 8 candles altogether, just nice :)

Our dessert.

And true to form, Sean ate about half his slice before I saw him struggling. I said, See! You don't like my cake, why did you ask me to bake it?? He smiled sheepishly and said, Because we don't have it frequently, so I forget that I don't like it, so I want it cos I think I like it, but actually I don't.


Sean's 8! (Part 2): School celebration

Continuing from the previous post, this is how Sean celebrated his birthday in school. Now Sean is finally making friends in school so he actually wanted to have a party. I contemplated doing something in a Fun-rama, a huge indoor playground. But by the time he told me he wanted a party, there was so little time to prepare...and most kids live near the school and I wasn't sure how many kids would turn up in the city on a weekend. Okay okay, I didn't want the stress...maybe next year.

So I told Sean we'll bring in cupcakes and goodie bags to school and he was happy with that. I was really excited when I found these cupcakes in a small shop some 10 minutes drive from my place. They are ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS!!! I didn't care what they tasted like but today I ate one (okay, a couple!) and they are amazingly delicious too. Lovely butter cream and cool fluffy vanilla cake. Perfect!

Another picture. When I first saw these cupcakes, I fell so much in love with them. It feels so magical :)

Close-ups. Aren't they delightful?

Another couple of pictures taken with my G11.

His friends went Oooh and Aaaah, yes, even the boys. One boy told Sean, I wish it was your birthday again tomorrow so we can have this again. A girl said, I wish it was your birthday EVERYDAY so we can have this everyday. :) The girls were eyeing the full-rainbow cupcakes, which came in a couplet. There were 4 of these, ie, 8 cupcakes.

For party favors, I packed each kid a small blue bag of goodies and gave them a photo holder, but instead of a photo, I clipped on a little heart instead.

The photo holder's base is actually like those snow-globe thingies, when you shake it, the fruits inside move together with the stars and flakes.

In the goodie bag was a mini toblerone, 2 different types of jellies, a marshmallow, Haribo gummies and Chuppa-chup lolli. I didn't want to stuff too much sweets lest I get complaints from parents :P

Happy Birthday to you....

Sean hands out the little gifts...

and the goodie bags.

The kids sit back and enjoy the delicious cuppy cakes.

And my baby's 8 and happy :)

Sean's 8! (Part 1): The prezzies

And my baby turns 8 today. This is the first year that he's truly waited for his birthday in anticipation. In past years, he's been pretty nonchalant about his birthday, in some years he told us he didn't want any presents cos there was nothing he needed or wanted. This year, he asked for a stainless steel wind spinner that he had seen at the basement of Raffles City last year. What a waste of money :P I wasn't returning to Singapore anytime soon and it's hard enough describing what a wind spinner was, and I wasn't even sure if the stall was still in Raffles City. I wasn't about to send my friends on a wild goose chase.

Thank goodness Monica gave me a brainwave. She had bought some Pink Panther VCDs, so I started googling for Pink Panther shows and found there was a 5-disc Collectors' edition. Sean immediately changed his mind and said he wanted the dvds instead. I ordered it off Amazon on Aug 19th and even with expedited international shipping (2nd fastest, US$17 shipping, fastest would have been even more!), delivery date was 10 September, 3 days after his birthday. He was a tad disappointed but said it was okay, as long as I made him a card if the dvds didn't arrive by his birthday. When I asked if I could just buy him a card, he said no, he wants me to make him one cos "it feels nicer".

And then 2 days before his birthday, on a Sunday, SURPRISE! The much-awaited package arrived. I was so happy I couldn't wait to show him. He quickly peeled off the package. The message from us. He smiled and then wondered, Did you type this in there? Hee hee.

I teased him, "It's Pink!!" He retorted, "Panther! Pink Panther!"

When I ordered this DVD set, it was US$34 on Amazon, then when I checked again this week, the price was now US$63! I was pretty pleased with my newly-discovered Deal!

Another present he received unexpectedly was this book.

Every time we go to Kinokuniya, he would hunt for this book and read this in the store. I wouldn't buy it for him cos...erm, of the pricelah, it was about S$40. Anyway, I had already bought him another book from Kino called Parallel Universe. So we were in Kino on Sunday, and this book was half-off! So I told him he was in luck, this would be an early birthday present.

And of course, there was this present from his korkor, plus an hour of tortoise talk tonight, he couldn't be more excited. Oh and the presence of his porpor, who flew in from Malacca to be with him on his birthday. Porpor also gave him an angpow.

While everyone was asleep last night, I was busy making his birthday card. This was after hours of baking his birthday cake and preparing for his birthday celebration in school today. It was only later that I realised the card wasn't necessary, cos the dvds arrived on time. Anyway, this was what I wrote on the card:

My darling, perfect Sean,

We are so blessed to have you in our lives.

Happy Birthday Sweetheart!

WE LOVE YOU ever so much.

Mummy, Daddy, Korkor, Porpor
and Mary too
(with a tiny drawing of a tortoise).

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Advice from a child

For the past month, I've had Veena, an English-speaking Thai lady come in 3 times a week to do some general cleaning and cooking. Her cooking repertoire is limited but for the most part, what she cooks is pretty delicious. I've been pleased. Then she told me another family offered her a full-time position so she had to leave. She recommended her friend to me and said her friend was a better cook than she was.

Today was Malee's first day at work. She only had to cook 3 simple dishes, and all came well below par. The tomyam goong was tasteless, the morning glory was very salty and the chicken nuggets were soggy and oily. It was a huge difference from Veena's cooking. I was pretty upset and explained to her what was wrong with the dishes.

Now, I admit I'm pretty anal when it comes to food. I can get unreasonably cheesed off if my meal is spoilt, and tonight, it definitely was. I spoke in an impatient voice when I was telling her all that she was doing wrong.

Suddenly, Sean appeared beside me and then he said softly to me, "It's only her first day..."


Chillin' in the Hub

Sean's favourite place in his school has got to be the Elementary School library, or the Hub. Fortunately, during recess/lunch, he actually needs a Hub pass before he can go the the library, or he'd go all the time. He gets the pass once a week, the rest of the time it's off to the playground he goes. There are lots of gorgeous Apple computers in the library, but I don't think Sean goes for these, he goes for the comics. There is even an iPad that can be borrowed for use in the library, but some kid is always hogging it.

I don't really know if he's allowed to lie down like this but I reckon so, the librarian seems really cool and welcoming to all kids. Here's another place he likes to read in. I wish I had a pod like this at home. When I wondered aloud if I would be able to sit on the pod without it collapsing, Sean very kindly said yes, hee hee.

We usually hang out at the hub if I'm in school to pick the kids up and Brian will come by to meet us here. Brian's at the top of the Middle School food chain, but he has no qualms making himself comfortable at the Elementary library too. The ES library is considerably brighter and cheerier than the dark-woodish MS library, so many MS kids like hanging out at the Hub too. Here Brian plops himself right next to Sean to read Garfield.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Gifts from a brother and son

In a period of 10 days starting from 29 August, there are 3 birthdays in our family of four. Eddie's is today, mine was 3 days ago, and Sean's is next Tuesday.

These are the presents we received from Brian, the odd one out, whose birthday is in October. He had bought them when he went on a school trip with this year's new students.

The most expensive gift was this wooden alligator for daddy (buaya for a buaya :)). There's a wooden stick (in the gator's mouth) that you can use to glide along the alligator (or is it a crocodile?) and apparently the sound this makes is just like the sound of a gator.

The sweetest gift was this ivory-looking necklace, for me :) As Brian has only started getting an allowance a few months ago, it's actually the first time that he's had the money to buy us presents. I thought he made a very good choice. I wore this when we went for my birthday lunch.

The cheapest, but most thoughtful gift, is this marble tortoise, for Sean of course. The storekeeper had actually shown Brian a marble elephant. But Brian asked if he had a tortoise and happily, he did.

Thank you sweetheart, we love you, you're a wonderful brother and son :)